Vale Dori gets her fourth straight graded score and first grade 1 victory in the Santa Margarita

Vale Dori gets her fourth straight graded score and first grade 1 victory in the Santa Margarita

Benoit Photo

Vale Dori Holds Off Finest City in Santa Margarita

Asiatic Boy mare earned first grade 1 victory.

Maybe—just maybe—Vale Dori has been doing more than picking up the pieces in Southern California's distaff division in the absence of champions Songbird and Stellar Wind.

In her most impressive win yet March 18, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum's 5-year-old Asiatic Boy mare took champion female sprinter Finest City's best shot in the Santa Anita Park stretch and found enough late to win the $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (G1) by 1 1/2 lengths. 

Video: Santa Margarita S. (G1)

Finest City, last year's Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) winner, shadowed the front-running Vale Dori through nearly every step of the 1 1/8-mile test, pulled alongside in the final turn, but could never get by.

Under jockey Rafael Bejarano, Vale Dori broke a bit slow, but quickly took command to set fractions of :23.50, :48.23, and 1:12.21 through six furlongs, with Finest City not budging from her hip on the outside.

"When I saw that Finest City didn't want to go to the lead, I just took control of the race and took it from there," Bejarano said. "She was really focused today and she showed me a big kick in the stretch. She was tough."

Vale Dori kicked away by about a length turning for home and Finest City never was able to make up the margin. The Bob Baffert-trained winner hit the wire in 1:48.81, for her fourth straight graded score and first grade 1 victory.

The top two finishers were 9 1/2 lengths clear of the rest of the field and longshot Autumn Flower completed the trifecta.

"She ran great," said Finest City's jockey, Tyler Baze. "This is probably just a little too far for her, but she ran really well. I give the winner credit. She'd never been headed before and we were head-and-head the whole way."

Bred in Argentina, out of the Halo Sunshine mare Valerina, Vale Dori now has eight wins from 13 starts, with earnings of $934,943. After a 10 1/4-length allowance win in October, Vale Dori won the Bayakoa Handicap (G2) at Del Mar, and the La Canada Stakes (G2) and Santa Maria Stakes (G2), both at Santa Anita.

"Today was the first time I think that she was really pressured almost the whole race," Bejarano said. "She showed me a lot of power—a lot of heart."

A head behind Autumn Flower came Lady Tapit, who was followed by Estrechada, Wild At Heart, Perfect Pic, and Show Stealer to complete the order of finish.